The Gazette covers City Hall, now a flood-damaged icon on May's Island in the Cedar River

Kernels, popcorn company keeping quiet on deal details

In Cedar Rapids Kernels, City Hall on March 21, 2008 at 4:28 pm

Tom Barbee, president of a group of private owners of the Cedar Rapids Kernels minor-league baseball team, reports that he has asked anew if the Dale and Thomas Popcorn Co. would allow the release of details of a new naming-rights deal with the ball club.

Barbee says the Englewood, N.J.-based company has asked the team to honor the contract the two parties have signed.

The company does not wish other venues in which it may have or may be seeking such naming-rights arrangements to know the particulars of the deal with the Kernels, Barbee explains.

He adds that advertisers generally don’t like the details of their contracts made public.

The Kernels announced the 5-year naming-rights deal last week, noting that the ball club — run by a private board of owners who long have identified themselves as 60 or so community baseball lovers — and the popcorn company had agreed to keep the details to themselves.

The naming-rights deal means that the field at the city-owned 6-year-old Veterans Memorial Stadium now will be called the Dale and Thomas Popcorn Co. Field.

Peter Welch, chairman of the city’s Veterans Memorial Commission which oversees the operation of the city’s ball park, said last week that the commission would like to know the details of the naming rights deal.

In part, such interest stems from the fact that the ball team is inextricably entangled with the city’s City Council and the city’s Veterans Memorial Commission, which lease the city’s ball park to the team and its board.

 Just four years ago, in fact, the City Council was forced to come to the ball team’s rescue because the team couldn’t make its lease payments to the city. The council and the Veterans Memorial Commission renegotiated the lease and assumed a debt burden extending out more than 40 years so that the team could cut its annual lease payments.

Barbee notes that those lease payments are scheduled to jump $30,000 a month in 2011 and another $30,000 in 2017.

The revenue from naming rights will stay with the team to help it cover its costs.

Last week, the veterans commission’s Welch noted that the ball club has not been open with releasing its financial records, though Barbee disagrees. Barbee says the club shows the records, “but we ask that they not take the financials with them. We just don’t want them out on the street,” he explains.

There is another naming-rights arrangement at a city-owned facility, the U.S. Cellular Center. And the city, its management company and its Five Seasons Facilities Commission have had no difficulty disclosing the details of the updated deal signed in January. In it, the company will pay $130,000 in 2008, $133,900 in 2009 and $137,917 in 2010.

As for the popcorn company: The Dale and Thomas Popcorn Co.’s original name was “Popcorn, Indiana.” That changed when the company formed a partnership in recent years with Isiah Thomas, the former NBA and University of Indiana basketball star, now president of the New York Knicks. The popcorn company is named for Thomas and Dale Humphrey, a one-time Indiana popcorn farmer.  


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